As I was reading Mel’s excellent posts the last few weeks, I began to grow a bit nostalgic about some of the games that I considered classics of the, now, past generation. Like many gamers, I have fond memories of the gaming conquests of my youth and each new game I play presents the opportunity to add to these memories. As I began to reflect on my experiences of the last generation, I was dismayed to realize that the memories did not stick out to me like, say, the time I received Bulbasaur for the first time in Pokémon: Red. I assured myself that I merely had glossed over the moments in my quick reflection and set off to ignite my brain into recalling all the amazing times I had over the past seven years.
My journey began with Fallout 3, a game that I poured around eighty hours into, with that number likely being on the lower end. Even while I waited for Steam to download and install the game, I did not experience a flood of memorable moments hitting me. Still, I was resolute on proving myself wrong, and started up a new character. As I finished the first section of the game and escaped to the Wasteland, it struck me that I was not compelled to continue my adventure the same as I was during my first playthrough. As I tried to figure out why I did not have the same drive to complete a game that I had thought would be a classic for me, it dawned on me what the missing element was, hype.
As I hopped to other games from the past generation, I found only a pair of games that truly stuck out to me as classic titles, Portal and Portal 2. For me, The two Portal games embody what it means to be a classic, they combine a good presentation with excellent controls and top it all off with fantastic writing. Most triple-a games, like Fallout 3, are overloaded with content (with more added through DLC) only to have a large portions of a game go unappreciated by fans. One thing that really set Portal apart is that it has just enough quality content to leave a gamer wanting more while not feeling cheated. This balance of content goes a long way to get fans hyped for the next installment better than any website could do.
The same media that is guilty of trying to sway gamers back over to Microsoft is also guilty of much of the hype that surrounds games like Fallout 3. I, like many other gamers, am guilty of playing into the media’s hand, gobbling up information for the next big release like it is Thanksgiving dinner. When the game finally arrives in my hands, I focus much of my attention to the details I read about leading up to the game’s release, often at the expense of more important moments of the game. When I look back at recent games that I have been over-hyped for, I realize that I remember more about the excitement leading up to release than I do about the actual game. While all the news and hoopla leading up to release has a positive effect on sales, it seems to have the reverse effect after the dust has settled.
Of course, there are other factors at work here besides hype. The majority of games that I consider classics are games that I played before I was old enough to drive a car. It is impossible to know if a game like Super Mario World would have the effect today as it did back in 1990 because the world of video games is hardly anything like it was two decades ago. An industry that once was trying to gain credibility and crafted each release with an eye gazing towards the future is now almost completely focused on the present and how much money a series can generate. This change in vision has also led to a change in how companies staff their development teams. Super Mario World had a team of sixteen people developing it while some teams of today contain two hundred people. With so many people working on the same project, some that might not even be fans of video games, it is nearly impossible to have everybody on the same creative page.
I may be alone on an island, but a lot of the magic that drew me into gaming has seemingly evaporated from the industry. Sure, great games come out every couple of months, but between the media that hypes triple-a titles ad nauseam and the current development mindset, it is unlikely that they will leave a mark like their ancestors. This is likely by design, companies need gamers to tire of last year’s release so that they will be duped into buying the next installment of a series. If anything, my search forced me to reevaluate some games from the previous generation, but the best way to review something is without outside influence (hint, hint other websites). Has a game ever disappointed you on a second playthrough? Am I totally off my rocker about the Portal games? Put me on blast in the comments!